An ASUS router.
Hannah Stryker / How-To Geek

Wi-Fi 6E adds the 6GHz band to the existing 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands available in Wi-Fi 6. The additional 6GHz band will help reduce congestion in areas with lots of Wi-Fi networks, improving network performance and reliability.
Wi-Fi 6 hardware is now common, and there’s a good chance you have both a Wi-Fi 6 network and Wi-Fi 6 compatible devices. But people are already talking about something new: Wi-Fi 6E, which promises to reduce Wi-Fi congestion further.

What Is Wi-Fi 6E?

Wi-Fi 6 and previous generations of Wi-Fi use the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio bands. A “Wi-Fi 6E” device is one that is capable of operating on the 6 GHz band, too.

The 6 GHz spectrum works similarly to WiFi 6 over 5 GHz but offers additional non-overlapping channels. As the Wi-Fi Alliance puts it, Wi-Fi 6E allows for “14 additional 80 MHz channels and 7 additional 160 MHz channels.” These channels wouldn’t overlap with each other, which will help reduce congestion, particularly in areas where lots of networks are operating.

All the devices communicating on the 6 GHz spectrum would also be Wi-Fi 6 devices. There wouldn’t be any older devices using standards like Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac). All devices on the 6 GHz channels will be speaking the same language and can use Wi-Fi 6’s new congestion-busting features.

In other words, Wi-Fi 6E is Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax) over 6 GHz.

RELATED: What Is Wi-Fi 6? (802.11ax)

How Fast Is Wi-Fi 6E?

Wi-Fi 6E is built on the same standard as Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and offers the same top speed — about 9.6 gigabits per second (Gbps).

So, if it has the same top speed, why should anyone care at all? As we mentioned before, the main advantage of Wi-Fi 6E is the additional channels that the 6 GHz band carries.

If you’ve ever been in an area with a ton of different Wi-Fi networks and devices all operating simultaneously, you’re probably familiar with the issues that occur. In those circumstances, Wi-Fi networks become less reliable, your speeds tend to be worse, and the entire experience can be downright awful.

That is where Wi-Fi 6E really shines. The new 6 GHz Wi-Fi band significantly increases the number of channels available for wireless devices to use. That means less jostling for the same parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. The practical benefits for the end user are more reliable connections, better data rates, and fewer annoyances.

Is Wi-Fi 6E going to revolutionize wireless technology as we know it? No, but if you live somewhere that suffers from a ton of wireless internet traffic—like a dense apartment building—you’ll be glad to have the extra room on the 6 GHz band available.

How Can You Get Wi-Fi 6E?

Getting Wi-Fi 6E requires two things. First, you need a wireless router that supports Wi-Fi 6E. Wi-Fi 6E routers have been available since 2021, and you can buy routers and mesh networking systems from brands like Asus with Wi-Fi 6E. Other manufacturers like NetgearTP-Link, and LinkSys have also released Wi-Fi 6E routers.

When you’re picking out a router, make sure to keep a few things in mind.

  • What materials are your home made of?
  • How big of an area does your router need to cover?
  • How many Ethernet ports do you need?
  • What is the maximum speed of your internet plan?

What your home is made of, and how big it is, will make a big difference in which router you need. Wi-Fi signals, especially the 6GHz Wi-Fi band, don’t penetrate brick, concrete, rock, or most other materials similar to that very well, whereas drywall and wood aren’t too much of an issue. Additionally, the 6GHz band drops off more aggressively with distance than the 2.4GHz band or the 5GHz band.

If you’ve got a large home, or you have walls that are made of a material that will block Wi-Fi signals, you should consider a mesh Wi-Fi system instead. They’re designed to provide more reliable, uniform coverage in situations where a single router doesn’t cut it.

Then you need a device to connect to the Wi-Fi 6E network, and that is where you’re slightly more likely to encounter problems.

Wi-Fi Over 6 GHz Requires New Devices

Wi-Fi 6E devices will be backward compatible with Wi-Fi 6 and previous Wi-Fi standards. But, to take advantage of those new 6 GHz channels in Wi-Fi 6E, you’ll need to be using devices that support it. In other words, you’ll only be using Wi-Fi 6E once you pair a Wi-Fi 6E-enabled client device (like a laptop or smartphone) and a WI-Fi 6E-enabled access point.

For example, even if you have a bunch of Wi-Fi 6 devices and a Wi-Fi 6E-enabled router, none of your devices will communicate over Wi-FI 6E. They’ll all be using Wi-Fi 6 on the typical 5 GHz or 2.4 GHz channels.

RELATED: 5 GHz Wi-Fi Isn't Always Better Than 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi

What Devices Support Wi-Fi 6E?

At the start of 2023, Wi-Fi 6E hardware has become pretty common, though it definitely isn’t universal. Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Google Pixel 7 support Wi-Fi 6E, although the only Apple devices that support Wi-Fi 6E so far are the latest editions of the Macbook Pro, the iPad Pro, and the Mac mini. The iPhone 14 does not support Wi-Fi 6E.

Intel is promoting Wi-Fi 6E, which it calls “GIG+”. As Intel continues adding this feature to its platforms for manufacturers, more and more Intel-powered laptops have appeared with Wi-Fi 6E support. AMD, MediaTek, and Qualcomm have all released wireless controllers that support Wi-Fi 6E that appear in various phones, tablets, and laptops, too.

Wi-Fi 6E now also appears on mid-range and high-end motherboards, if you want to build a desktop PC with the latest wireless connectivity options.

Note: Microsoft has chosen not to support Wi-Fi 6E on Windows 10. If you’re a PC user, you’ll need Windows 11 to take full advantage of any Wi-Fi 6E hardware.

Going forward, most high and mid-range devices with Wi-Fi connectivity released through 2023 will likely support Wi-Fi 6E.

Do You Need Wi-Fi 6E?

As with most things, that depends on your circumstances. If you live somewhere with a ton of Wi-Fi congestion, then yes, you should seriously consider buying a Wi-Fi 6E router. Wi-Fi 6E devices aren’t universal yet, but you’ll really appreciate the extra breathing room the 6GHz band provides on the devices that can use it.

And more of those devices are coming soon — you should expect every flagship device released in 2023 to support Wi-Fi 6E, as well as most midrange phones, most laptops, and most motherboards with Wi-Fi connectivity. There is plenty of hardware out there that supports Wi-Fi 6E out there if you’re willing to buy it.

If you don’t have Wi-Fi congestion problems, it becomes harder to recommend an immediate upgrade to Wi-Fi 6E. It isn’t leaps and bounds faster than Wi-Fi 6, and unless you’ve purchased new gadgets to use the 6Ghz band, you won’t get anything that justifies the higher price Wi-Fi 6E routers still command. If you’re not itching to adopt the latest and greatest, or don’t have an immediate need, stick with your current router as long as it does what you want it to do.

That said, you should avoid buying new Wi-Fi 5 routers at this time. Wi-Fi 6 devices, like routers, laptops, smartphones, are ubiquitous. Wi-Fi 6 isn’t an extreme upgrade over Wi-Fi 5 in terms of speed, but it will lead to faster Wi-Fi along with less wireless congestion and perhaps even extended battery life for your devices. We definitely recommend you at least buy a Wi-Fi 6 router if you haven’t already done so. You’ll be able to take proper advantage of all your Wi-Fi 6 devices.

RELATED: Why Your Next Router Should Be Wi-Fi 6E

Is Wi-Fi 6E Secure?

Yes. Wi-Fi 6E utilizes the latest Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) security, which has a number of improvements over older versions of WPA.

WPA3 makes weak passwords more resilient to brute force attacks, ensures that all of your traffic is fully anonymized when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi networks, and offers more advanced encryption for enterprise uses.

It is important to note that Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E have the exact same security standards. Wi-Fi 6E, while newer, doesn’t bring any security improvements to the table.

Wi-Fi 6E Required Regulatory Approval

The FCC's headquarters in Washington, DC.
Mark Van Scyoc/

If 6 GHz is so useful, why didn’t existing Wi-Fi standards already use it? Well, they couldn’t. Regulatory agencies didn’t allow Wi-Fi to use the 6 GHz band, instead reserving it for other purposes.

Back in October 2018, the US Federal Communications Commission proposed offering the 6 GHz spectrum for Wi-Fi and other “unlicensed” uses. That didn’t happen immediately, and Wi-Fi 6E began to take shape prior to its regulatory approval. On April 23, 2020, the FCC voted to open the 6 GHz band to Wi-Fi 6E and other uses later in 2020, so Wi-Fi 6E devices are cleared to launch in the US.

Many other countries have also permitted use of the 6GHz band, clearing the way for Wi-Fi 6E devices to enter the market.

Wi-Fi 6E Isn’t WiGig

Note that the 6 GHz band for Wi-Fi 6E is different from the 60 GHz band, which WiGig will take advantage of. Wi-Fi 6E’s 6 GHz will work similarly to Wi-Fi’s 5 GHz, while WiGig is ideal for faster data transfer rates over shorter distances.

RELATED: What is WiGig, and How Is It Different From Wi-Fi 6?

The Best Wi-Fi 6E Routers of 2023

Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000
Best Wi-Fi 6E Router Overall
Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000
Linksys MR7500 Hydra Pro 6E
Best Budget Wi-Fi 6E Router
Linksys MR7500 Hydra Pro 6E
Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500
Best Wi-Fi 6E Router for Gaming
Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500
Netgear Orbi RBKE963
Best Mesh Wi-Fi 6E Router
Netgear Orbi RBKE963
Best Budget Mesh Wi-Fi 6E Router
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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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Nick Lewis is a staff writer for How-To Geek. He has been using computers for 20 years --- tinkering with everything from the UI to the Windows registry to device firmware. Before How-To Geek, he used Python and C++ as a freelance programmer. In college, Nick made extensive use of Fortran while pursuing a physics degree.
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